Inventory management software does more than just tell you what’s currently in the stockroom. Good software helps businesses track items or parts throughout the different supply chain stages from supplier through assembly, storage, and sale. Inventory management software provides greater visibility into all of these stages, allowing businesses to rely less on physical counts, achieve better synchronization across operations, and streamline accounting practices.
Small businesses like retail stores typically use a simpler inventory system, often one paired with point-of-sale (POS) software. B2B businesses typically need a system with more assembly or accounting tools. Large businesses, particularly B2B ones, need something more robust like an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
The four best inventory management software for small businesses are:
- Zoho Inventory: Best overall small business inventory management system
- Lightspeed: Best inventory management for storefronts
- Agiliron: Best inventory management for small B2B businesses
- QuickBooks Enterprise: Best for businesses needing sophisticated accounting tools
How We Evaluated Inventory Management Software
We looked at cloud-based software whose pricing and plans were suited for SMBs and which are highly regarded by customers and industry experts. We also considered how well it works in industries other than retail, whether it handles multiple warehouses or sales channels, what integrations it allows, and how easy it is to get help. We did not consider ERPs and other enterprise-level systems.
Zoho Inventory: Best Inventory Management Software for Small Businesses
We chose Zoho Inventory as the best inventory program for small businesses because it provides great value for the price. Depending on the plan, you can handle multiple warehouses, ecommerce, and purchase orders. The system has advanced bundling and kitting features for combining multiple SKUs, is customizable to different types of businesses and use cases, and can integrate with other Zoho products or operate as a standalone system. Plus, Zoho Inventory has an intuitive interface.
Zoho Inventory Strengths
Zoho Inventory Weaknesses
Handles multiple channels, multiple warehouses, even multiple currencies
Integrates with Zoho software only
Mobile app available
Lacks returns management
Can monitor expiration dates on batch orders
Lacks rental function
Zoho Inventory Pricing
Monthly Fee (annual plan)
Monthly Online Orders
Monthly Offline Orders
Monthly Shipping Labels
Monthly Shipment Tracking
Zoho offers four plans depending on your needs. We listed the pricing for the annual plans. Nonprofits enjoy a 15% discount. You can start with a 14-day free trial.
- Additional orders: $5 for 50 orders + 50 shipping labels
- Additional warehouses: $9 per warehouse, per organization per month; $90 per year
Zoho Inventory Features
- Standout feature: App for Android (4.5 stars) and iOS (4.1 stars): Add items, manage sales orders, view warehouse stock, and fulfill orders from your phone or tablet.
- Industries: Retail, ecommerce, multinational, dropshipping.
- Ease of use: Overall easy to use, with intuitive navigation. Kitting/bundling takes more effort than with other software.
- Tracking: Track items, set reorder points, create reminders, and note preferred vendors.
- Purchase orders: Create purchase orders manually or via online sales, integrate with over 40 shipping carriers, generate shipping labels, and get shipping updates.
- Barcoding: Bar code scanning auto-populates your fields when you create invoices, sales, or purchase orders.
- Sales channels: Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Shopify.
- Integrations: Zoho software like Zoho CRM and Zoho Books.
- Advanced features: Composite function for kitting, batch tracking, expiration dates, real-time shipping rates, and in-transit details.
- Customer Reviews: Customers say Zoho is easy to use and a good value, but they would like greater template control and a smoother bundling function.
Lightspeed: Best Inventory Management Software for Retail and Restaurants
Lightspeed is a browser-based and iOS app-based POS system with sophisticated inventory control. It’s designed for retailers and shops that do repairs. For example, Lightspeed says half the bike shops in the US use its software. It’s reasonably priced and provides an all-in-one software program for managing inventory, accounting, analytics, ecommerce, and sales. Lightspeed also has restaurant POS software with ingredient-level inventory management. Lightspeed’s sophisticated inventory management tools also make it one of the best POS systems.
Ingredient tracking makes it good for restaurants
A POS system may be more than some businesses need
3,000+ preloaded catalogs for directly importing products
No windows or Android option
Bulk price changes, automated
Does not allow “negative on hand”
Discounts, price rules
Pricing depends on the industry you are in. Lightspeed does not offer free trials but does create customized plans if you have different needs or multiple locations. Plans include the full POS solution, not just inventory.
- Retail: Plans start at $69/month (annual) or $99/month (annual) with ecommerce. Higher plans have additional sales and accounting features, but all include inventory.
- Restaurant: Prices start at $59/month (annual) for the software and first register and increase by $34/month for additional registers. All software plans include inventory.
- Golf: Specifically designed for golf courses; contact for a quote.
- Standout feature: Lightspeed’s restaurant version lets you assign ingredients to a product and track their quantities.
- Industries: Retail, ecommerce, CBD and vape, boutiques, sporting goods, bike shops, golf courses, restaurants, cafe, hotels.
- Ease of use: Online help center with video demos; rates high for ease of use by customers.
- Tracking: Set automated reorder points, product transfers between locations.
- Purchase orders: Create special orders, work orders, and standard purchase orders. A built-in purchase catalog means you can submit a POS within the software program—no need to export.
- Bar coding: Scanners tie to the POS system and track inventory with sales.
- Sales channels: Brick-and-mortar, website.
- Integrations: In addition to dozens of integrations for accounting and scheduling, you can integrate with other inventory management and analysis apps if Lightspeed does not fulfill a particular need.
- Advanced features: Kitting, assembled items, serialized items; full point-of-sale system; hardware available; directly import from over 3,000 supplier catalogs.
- Customer reviews: 4.8 stars from Fit Small Business user-reviewers. Customers say the software is feature-rich while still being easy to use.
Read our full Lightspeed Retail review to see why it’s one of the most highly-recommended software products for retail businesses.
Agiliron: Best Inventory Management Software for B2B Retail
Agiliron is a multichannel retail management system with ecommerce, retail, and wholesale functions. Comprehensive B2B and B2C inventory features to create custom orders, kits, assemblies, matrixed products, and product substitutions set this system apart. Though a little pricier and complex, it’s great for B2B, wholesale, or B2C businesses with complex kitting or assembly needs.
B2B and B2C ecommerce store options
A complete solution including CRM—may be more than you need
Handles product customizations and substitutions
System has a steeper learning curve
Works in offline mode
No mobile access
Agiliron is a POS, CRM, warehouse management, ecommerce, and inventory system all in one. The three plans all include one login and two sales channels. You can purchase more for additional fees. All plans also include unlimited orders, QuickBooks integration, POS software, CRM, B2C ecommerce store and integration options, Amazon and eBay integrations, and email support. There’s a 30-day free trial.
- Premier ($85/month annually): Unlimited orders, POS, full-featured CRM, ecommerce store and integrations, email support
- Enterprise ($169/month annually): Premier plan plus phone support, advanced Business Intelligence tools, B2B store, multiple stock locations, warehouse mobile app, advanced inventory management tools
- Global Enterprise ($255/month annually): Enterprise plan plus multi-country and multi-currency tools
- Standout feature: Agiliron lets you create and track matrix item products, serialized products, assembly products, kit products, and pre-set substitution products.
- Industries: Retail, ecommerce, B2B, wholesale, manufacturers.
- Ease of use: Centralized inventory tracking, onboarding specialist, and an online learning center with videos.
- Tracking: Track bin, lot, serial, style SKUs, and service products.
- Purchase orders: Create purchase orders and assign them to accounts and salespeople.
- Barcoding: Input and track manufacturer, Amazon, or other SKUs.
- Sales channels: Amazon, eBay, Shopify, Magneto, other online stores.
- Integrations: Multiple payment solutions, QuickBooks, ShipStation, and more.
- Advanced features: Kitting and assembly, bulk order, bulk packing slips, product substitutions, and customizations like gift wrapping.
- Customer reviews: While customers enjoyed the range of features and said it was reasonably easy to use, several did mention that it was initially intimidating and took longer to learn.
QuickBooks Enterprise: Best Inventory Management Software With Sophisticated Accounting
Businesses like QuickBooks because it’s an easy-to-use accounting program. Its Enterprise version has a strong inventory addition that lets you not only handle tracking items and orders but also pricing changes. It integrates with ecommerce, works with multiple warehouses, and even focuses on construction inventory. While more expensive, it’s a great choice for a medium-to-large business, especially those already using QuickBooks for accounting.
QuickBooks Enterprise Strengths
QuickBooks Enterprise Weaknesses
Offers hosted or onsite solutions
No kitting or reorder management
More expensive than other programs
Pricing rules for scheduling sales, calculating discounts
Does not integrate with other software
QuickBooks Enterprise Pricing
In order to take advantage of the inventory features, you need the Platinum or higher plan. You will receive a 20% discount for your first year. Note there are separate prices for hosted plans.
- Silver Plan (Local: $1,213/year. Hosted: $145/month): Software, advanced reporting, Priority Circle (dedicated customer service manager, priority support, online product training)
- Platinum (Local: $1,940/year. Hosted: $206/month): Silver Plan plus Advanced Inventory and Advanced Pricing
- Diamond (Local: $3,825/year. Hosted: $363/month): Platinum plus payroll and time sheets
QuickBooks Enterprise Features
- Standout feature: Make timed or conditional discounts easier with pricing rules that let you automatically change or adjust prices for items across the board.
- Industries: Retail, manufacturing and wholesale, construction and contractors, nonprofits, and professional services.
- Ease of use: Automation tools for streamlining processes, dedicated customer service, and online product training.
- Tracking: Track by bin location, serial or lot number; get low inventory notices on your bar code scanner.
- Purchase orders: Send orders to bar code scanners and get updates.
- Bar coding: Bar code scanning auto-populates your fields when you create an invoice, sales, or purchase orders. Scanners receive orders and send fulfillment notes.
- Sales channels: Amazon, eBay, Etsy, websites, and online stores.
- Integrations: QuickBooks, several shopping cart software programs, and options to connect CRMs like Salesforce for an additional monthly fee.
- Advanced features: Inventory survey, accounting, payment processing, and asset management.
- Customer reviews: Customers said QuickBooks is very easy to use, although some of the customer features (such as search) need improvement.
Types of Inventory Management
When choosing the best inventory management software for your business, it can be helpful to learn the industry terminology for your specific type of inventory management.
- Anticipation/smoothing inventory: Anticipation inventory denotes excess products stored in anticipation of a future event such as a holiday, sale, or special event.
- Buffer inventory/safety stock: Represents the products you keep on hand beyond your usual sales volume. To determine how much safety stock you need, multiple your maximum daily usage by maximum (daily) lead time. Then, multiply your average daily usage by your average lead time and subtract it from the first number.
- Dead stock: Items that are not selling well. Keep a minimum unless you discontinue the item and watch for expiration dates.
- Decoupling inventory: This term applies to manufacturing and refers to the parts, supplies, and products waiting to be used by the next machine in a chain. It keeps the process running smoothly even if a machine breaks down or runs more slowly.
- Fast stock: The opposite of deadstock, these sell quickly. Consider setting multiple alerts, so you can keep up with demand.
- Finished goods: Products ready to be sold.
- Just-in-time inventory: Inventory you receive just in time to deliver to the customer, as opposed to having products stored. This can save on warehouse expenses.
- Maintenance, repair, and operating supplies (MRO): The items needed to keep manufacturing moving, such as shipping pallets, vehicles, or other vital tools. When creating inventory, these, too, can be labeled so managers can track their status.
- Raw materials: Items needed to make a finished good, from gears for a bike and leather for a jacket to spices for a recipe.
- Work-in-progress/unfinished products: These include materials, parts, assemblies, and sub assemblies devoted to a product under production. A WIP inventory account represents the value of materials, labor, and overhead issued to manufacturing that hasn’t yet resulted in a stockable item. It may include those awaiting final inspections.
Common Inventory Management Terms
- Bar coding: Attaching a unique number contained in the bar code to an item so a bar code scanner can identify it.
- Bill of Materials (BoM): A list of materials needed to make a product.
- Bundles: A group of items that can be sold as a single product.
- Cycle counting: Counting a portion of your inventory on a regular basis. More valuable or active items get counted more often.
- Economic Order Quantity (EOQ): The amount of stock you should reorder based on examining product demand and warehousing costs.
- First-In-First-Out (FIFO): Rotating inventory by selling the oldest items first. Also used for inventory costing.
- Holding costs: How much it costs to store an item in your warehouse before it’s sold.
- Last-In-First-Out (LIFO): Rotating inventory by selling the newest items first; also used for inventory costing.
- Landed costs: The costs associated with purchasing, shipping, and storing inventory.
- Lot size: How many of a specific item is manufactured in a single run or ordered for delivery on a specific date.
- Multichannel: Selling a product in different channels such as ecommerce, brick-and-mortar, and Amazon.
- Omnichannel: Streamlining the channels so that the branding is consistent no matter where the item is sold.
- Pipeline inventory: Items in the various stages of the supply chain that are not at their final destination.
- Reorder point: The level of inventory at which point you should reorder. Reorder point = (average daily use X average lead time in days) + safety stock.
- Stock keeping unit (SKU): A series of letters and numbers assigned to an item to identify it by product type and attributes. They are highly customizable and can vary from warehouse to warehouse.
- Turnover: How quickly a retailer is selling and replacing inventory.
- Universal product code (UPC): A numerical value used by everyone around the world to refer to that particular product.
Inventory is the lifeblood of your business. Unless you have very simple inventory that you can track with a spreadsheet, then inventory management software can save you time, headaches, and money. The right inventory management software makes that job easier. Many are tied to point-of-sale systems, but there are some that work alone or with accounting software.
You’ll find scores of inventory programs that meet a wide variety of needs. We found Zoho Inventory the best suited for most small businesses because of its price point and ease of use. It offers the most important features needed to run a smooth store and ecommerce program. Visit Zoho and try it free.